Christine Van Wieren
Hometown: Plano, Texas
Degree Earned: Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Specializations: BBA with a concentration in Management; BBA with a concentration in Accounting and Finance
American InterContinental University (AIU) Online is proud to announce that Christine Van Wieren, a single mother of one from Plano, Texas, was recently named the sixth recipient of the AIU Distinguished Alumnus Award.
"Christine is a perfect example for our online student population," said Betsy Balachandran, director of career services for AIU Online and a member of the selection committee. "She was selected by our university leadership team because she has a strong commitment to education and after applying her degree to her career, she has already seen it pay off with career advancements."
Van Wieren graduated in 2006 with two bachelor of business administration degrees, one with a management concentration and a second with an accounting and finance concentration. Like so many other mothers, Van Wieren wanted to further her education to not only advance in the workplace, but also make a better life for her son. In fact, according to a recent Omnibus survey conducted by AIU Online, moms are twice as likely as women without children to consider going back to school to improve job prospects due to the current economy.
"While working in a clerical position at an insurance company in Texas, I saw my coworkers receiving promotions and advancing in their careers. Often time I would think, 'Hey, I can do that job,' but not having my degree was holding me back from moving up in the company," said Van Wieren.
"Wanting to make a better life for myself and my son, I decided I wanted to become a claims admin manager within the company. As I was finishing my associate's degree at a local community college, I realized my goal was probably 10 years away; six to eight years to complete my bachelor's degree and three years to possibly get the position," said Van Wieren. "When I was contacted by an AIU employee, I realized I could earn my degree sooner, turning a 10-year plan into a possible five-year plan."
With the support of her family, friends and co-workers VanWieren enrolled at AIU Online. As a single mother, Van Wieren had to juggle many commitments while attending AIU. "I honestly don't know how I did it," said Van Wieren. "I just always kept on top of my work, if you stay on top you never fall behind. I also made it a priority to get my work done during the week so to leave time for family and friends on the weekends."
Soon after beginning classes, Van Wieren began seeing the real world applications for what she was learning. She began to have a better understanding of the budgets, surveys and reports used by her employer. "As I started each new class, I tried to utilize what I was learning in my daily tasks." While finishing up her management concentration, Van Wieren was promoted to claims admin specialist. She continued her studies while working hard in her new position and exactly one year after completing her second degree; Van Wieren was promoted to the position of claims admin manager.
*1030 Women 18 and older nationally representative of the US population were surveyed. Of the women surveyed 378 have children at home (are Moms). The survey margin of error is 3.1 at a 95% confidence interval.
"By earning my college degrees, I was able to land the job I thought would take 10 years to get," said Van Wieren. "Instead, it took me two years and two months, an accomplishment I hold dear to my heart."
Although the award application asked Van Wieren what makes her situation unique, she instead illustrated how she was a great example for the many that face a situation similar to hers. "I think everyone has their stories and challenges they face when life gets in the way." She says, "I'm showing others that if you put your mind to it, you can do it."
Van Wieren received her award at a Nov. 20 brunch reception with school leaders at the AIU Online headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill. As part of being an AIU Distinguished Alumnus, Van Wieren received a trip to Chicago, a commemorative statue and a basket of AIU branded items. Van Wieren spent the day touring the headquarters and meeting members of the staff. When asked about the experience, she described it as, "surprising and amazing."
What's next for Van Wieren? "I want my master's," she said. "I got my bachelor's to prove to everyone else that I could do it and now I want my master's for me."
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